eBay Gift Card Scams: What They Are and How to Protect Yourself From Them

Protect yourself from these common eBay gift card scams

Gift card scams are very common and come in many shapes and forms. eBay gift card scams purposely target eBay shoppers and those with access to eBay gift cards. Here's everything you need to know about this scam and what to do should you fall victim.

What Are eBay Gift Card Scams?

eBay gift card scams are fraudulent activities performed by criminals with one goal in mind: to take your cash and run with it. They come in many forms, all of which are dangerous to your wallet.

A conceptual illustration of an eBay Gift Card Scammer
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi 

Send eBay Gift Cards With Purchase

This scam directly targets eBay sellers. A buyer will state the item they're purchasing is a gift for someone and they're from another country or location where they're unable to purchase gift cards.

They'll then ask the seller to purchase gift cards for them as part of their gift and instruct them to send the codes or ship the physical cards with the package. Unfortunately, a criminal will be on the receiving end of the package.

Buying eBay Gift Cards for Purchase

This gift card scam directly targets the eBay buyer. A criminal will pose as an eBay seller. Once a buyer is interested in an item, the seller will request payment via eBay gift cards.

The criminal will instruct you to purchase the gift cards and send them the codes as payment. Yet, instead of sending you an item, they'll steal your money.

This scam typically involves large purchases such as vehicles and campers through eBay Motors. Yet, it can happen with any item of any amount.

eBay Spoofing

Spoofing is a scam that involves a criminal posing as a trustworthy entity. In this case, they pose as eBay to attract shoppers willing to purchase items through a fake website.

A criminal will post a fake ad on Craigslist or another forum with a link that directs to a fake website that looks similar to eBay. The buyer will unknowingly make the purchase with an eBay gift card, yet they won't be receiving their item.

How Do eBay Gift Card Scams Work?

Criminals like to prey on our emotions, moving us to act carelessly. These eBay gift card scams work by:

  • Promising a good deal: A scam artist might try to sell you an item at an extremely low price, inspiring you to take advantage.
  • Telling you the offer has time restraints: They may say that the offer is temporary or that they need to sell the item fast. Victims give in for fear of losing their deal.
  • Triggering your emotions: They may state that they're selling an item because they're moving due to a loss in the family or due to joining the military.

How Do eBay Gift Card Scammers Find Victims?

Online scammers find their victims in several different ways:

  • Targeting new sellers and buyers: Criminals like to target new sellers and buyers on eBay who are unaware of past scams.
  • Fake ad listings: Scammers post fake ads online in places such as Craigslist or other online forums that look real to target buyers looking for a deal.
  • Social media: Scammers may also send you messages on Facebook or attempt to connect with you via social media with an offer you can't refuse.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

Beyond being aware of what you do online, there are some tips you can use to avoid becoming the victim of an eBay gift card scam:

  • Don't purchase eBay gift cards for anyone: Anyone that asks for eBay gift cards as payment or in addition to a purchase is a scammer attempting to take your cash.
  • Ensure the transaction occurs on the eBay website: Make sure the URL is correct: www.ebay.com. Don't carry out transactions outside of eBay.

If you take a transaction outside of eBay, you lose eBay's protection policy on your purchase.

  • Check seller ratings before entering into a transaction: Before you purchase anything, check to see if the seller has any ratings first. Although zero ratings aren't necessarily a deal-breaker, you should be aware of who you're working with.
  • Don't engage with individuals you don't know online: Whether someone sends you a Facebook message or you receive an email, don't engage with individuals you don't personally know online.

Scammers are known to hack reputable eBay accounts and post fake listings as well. The bottom line is this: if the offer is too good to be true, walk away.

I'm Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you suspect you've fallen victim to an eBay gift card scam, there are a few things you can do, starting with reporting the scam.

  • Report the account to eBay: You can report a seller or account to eBay easily. Do this first so eBay can deal with the account quickly.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission: The FTC offers an online complaint form, or you can call them directly at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
  • Report the scam to the IC3: The Internet Crime Complaint Center may be able to help you by beginning an investigation into your claim.
  • Take extra steps to protect yourself: If you've clicked around a fake website, be sure to run your anti-virus software to ensure your computer is protected. You might also change your passwords for added protection.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted for eBay Gift Card Scams?

While you can't prevent a scammer from finding a way to reach out to you, you can do a few things to avoid engaging with them. Don't click ads or websites that look suspicious. Avoid conversing with individuals online that you don't know. And finally, always make sure you're conducting transactions on eBay.